Happy Australia Day?

Scienta’s post on why not everyone in Australia likes to celebrate the coming of the Europeans reminded me of a podcast I listened to this morning in a similar vein.

The latest episode of Learn Out Loud’s excellent “Great Speeches in History” podcast has a speech by Frederick Douglass who confronts the country at the height of the Civil War. I’d never heard of Douglass before and in the podcast I learned that he was was an American abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer. Called “The Sage of Anacostia” and “The Lion of Anacostia,” Douglass was one of the most prominent figures of African American history during his time, and one of the most influential lecturers and authors in American history.

Frederick Douglass

He was born in 1818 as a slave in Talbot County, Maryland. Douglass escaped slavery on September 3, 1838 boarding a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland dressed in a sailor’s uniform and carrying identification papers provided by a free black seaman. After crossing the Susquehanna River by ferry boat at Havre de Grace, Douglass continued by train to Wilmington, Delaware. From there Douglass went by steamboat to “Quaker City”—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His escape to freedom eventually led him to New York, the entire journey taking less than twenty-four hours. He spent the rest of his fighting against slavery, for equal rights for African-Americans and became a newspaper publisher.

In the amazing speech linked to above, he absolutely eviscerates the USA’s self-image as being a “The Land Of The Free” and a Christian nation. Here’s a short quote:

“I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes – a justifier of the most appalling barbarity, a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds, and a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection.”

Definitely listen to it, it’s a powerful 8 minutes.

Getting back to Scienta’s post, she says:

It’s Australia Day here down under, which is supposed to be a celebration of Australia as a nation. Unfortunatly, the date chosen happens to be the day Australia was invaded by the British and for many is a Day of Mourning. As a nation I think it’s time we selected a date that’s a little more appropriate for celebration, one that’s less drenched in blood. Celebrating slaughter is not very Australian.

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